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Brainerd City Council: Council approves preliminary levy: Mayor hints at possible veto

The Brainerd City Council Monday night set its 2017 preliminary levy at $5.3 million, an increase of 3 percent over the previous year's levy. However, following the approval of the resolution setting the preliminary levy, Mayor Ed Menk said he ha...

Spenser Bickett/Brainerd Dispatch Students from Brainerd High School filled the Brainerd City Council chambers at city hall for Monday night's council meeting. Students routinely attend council meetings during the school year as part of a class requirement.
Spenser Bickett/Brainerd Dispatch Students from Brainerd High School filled the Brainerd City Council chambers at city hall for Monday night's council meeting. Students routinely attend council meetings during the school year as part of a class requirement.

The Brainerd City Council Monday night set its 2017 preliminary levy at $5.3 million, an increase of 3 percent over the previous year's levy.

However, following the approval of the resolution setting the preliminary levy, Mayor Ed Menk said he has five days to consider whether or not he will sign the resolution. If Menk does not sign the resolution, the council would need to call another special meeting before the Sept. 30 deadline to certify the preliminary levy.

Before the council approved the 3-percent increase, Menk reminded the council the increase doesn't help address the city's proposed $1.2 million in capital needs for the upcoming budget year. The proposed 2017 budget sets aside $166,000 for future capital savings and $466,818 for current year capital expenses.

"If you set it at 6 percent, you can always whittle it down," Menk said. "As mayor, I would say, 'be careful if you're going to set it at 3 percent.'"

Menk may make his decision to sign the resolution Tuesday when he receives it, he said, or he may use his entire allotted five days. He will consult with city staff and possibly with the city's "legal team" while he considers whether or not to sign the resolution, he said.

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Council member Kelly Bevans asked how the city could purchase $1.2 million in equipment while only setting aside $466,818. The city could lease instead of purchase a parks department vehicle and could issue equipment certificates to cover the remaining equipment costs, finance director Connie Hillman said. Items like heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment for city hall and repairs to the city hall front steps could not be covered by equipment certificates.

The $1.2 million in proposed equipment purchases for 2017 is an accurate portrayal of the city's immediate equipment needs, city Administrator Jim Thoreen said. With the levy increase set at 3 percent, city staff will now work on setting the 2017 budget within the limits set by the council, he said. The 3-percent increase represents an $156,518 increase in funding over the previous year.

The council approved the resolution on a 5-2 vote, with council members Dave Pritschet and Chip Borkenhagen voting against it. The council also set the truth in taxation hearing on the tax levy for 6 p.m. Dec. 12. The final levy adopted in December may be lower, but not higher, than the preliminary levy. The final levy and budget need to be adopted by Dec. 31.

A major sticking point in the city's budget is how to fund capital investment needs. For 2017, the city's various department heads have proposed a total of $1,258,500 in capital investment, while at the end of the year, the city's estimated capital fund balance will be $460,000.

The 3-percent levy increase allocates $166,793 in future capital needs savings, a far cry from the $1 million that would need to be saved every year to fund capital expenses. It also doesn't coincide with the council's goal of not issuing debt to purchase equipment. In 2016, the city budgeted saving $479,000 for capital while budgeting to purchase $820,000 in equipment.

In other business, the council:

Adopted a resolution declaring costs to be assessed for the reconstruction of Dellwood Drive from Novotny Road to Wise Road, for the reconstruction of Maple Street from 12th Street Southeast to 13th Street Southeast and for the resurfacing of Maple Street from 13th Street Southeast to 14th Street Southeast. The public hearing for the assessments is 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17.

The cost for the Maple Street projects is $720,388 and the cost for the Dellwood Drive project is $33,960. The portion of the Maple Street projects assessed to property owners is $39,987. The portion of the Dellwood Drive project assessed to property owners is $15,280.

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Adopted a resolution declaring costs to be assessed to the downtown special services district for snow removal and downtown landscaping. The public hearing for the assessments is 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17. The costs being assessed include 100 percent of the landscaping costs and a proportional share of the snow removal costs.

The total cost for the improvements is $26,146. The portion of the costs assessed to the members of the special service district is $16,854.

Authorized the police department to spend no more than $22,000 from DWI forfeiture funds to purchase and install four new in-squad vehicle video systems. The DWI forfeiture account balance is more than $35,000, with about 15 other DWI forfeiture vehicle sales pending.

Called for citizen applicants for the Cable TV Advisory Committee, Rental Dwelling Board of Appeals and Walkable Bikeable City Committee.

Approved a contractor payment to Tom's Backhoe Service for work through Aug. 31 on the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport utility extension project in the amount of $557,748.

Approved a final contractor payment to the Crow Wing County Highway Department for work on Novotny Road in the amount of $33,960.

Approved a lawful gambling application to conduct excluded bingo submitted by Lakes Area United States Bowling Congress Bowling Association on Nov. 14-18 and March 20-24, 2017.

Received a written report from Police Chief Corky McQuiston on the department's activity in the month of August. The department responded to 1,588 calls for service during the month, which compares to 1,590 calls for service during August of 2015.

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Approved a street closure application to close Holly Street between North Sixth and North Seventh streets on the afternoon of Sept. 25 for a private auction.

FACTBOX

Tax levy history and percentage change

Year, Total levy in dollars, Percentage levy change

2006 3,198,000 14.1

2007 3,509,766 9.7

2008 3,816,296 8.7

2009 3,962,308 3.8

2010 4,112,308 3.8

2011 4,055,836 -1.4

2012 3,953,486 -2.5

2013 3,953,486 0

2014 4,453,486 12.6

2015 4,898,835 10

2016 5,217,260 6.5

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